When a bird smacks into a military plane, it is not a pretty picture, neither for bird nor plane. It is, however, a serious, if messy, problem, and one that jeopardizes the safety of pilots and some very expensive Air Force hardware. The Wall Street Journal visits a base in Afghanistan and provides a glimpse of how the Air Force is fighting back—a process that involves methodically scraping up bird remains and shipping them to the Smithsonian.
"It's not as glamorous a job as you might imagine," says one unlucky colonel. The idea is to better track which birds fly when, and then have pilots do their darndest to avoid them. Researchers maintain an encyclopedic database of birds that zigged when they should have zagged and feed the data to the military. The colonel says the information helps determine flight schedules—but adds that ornithological caution must be thrown to the wind if battle calls.